The Cubs grounds crew was short staffed because the Cubs were trying to avoid Obamacare

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This story keeps on giving.

Yesterday when the Cubs defended their grounds crew’s efforts during Tuesday night’s debacle against the Giants, the team noted that they had sent home many of the grounds crew workers earlier in the day. They made it sound as if it were standard operating procedure to do so. But the Chicago Sun-Times reports that there was a bit more to the team’s staffing decisions:

The staffing issues that hamstrung the grounds crew Tuesday during a mad dash with the tarp under a sudden rainstorm were created in part by a wide-ranging reorganization last winter of game-day personnel, job descriptions and work limits designed to keep the seasonal workers – including much of the grounds crew – under 130 hours per month, according to numerous sources with direct knowledge.

That’s the full-time worker definition under “Obamacare,” which requires employer-provided healthcare benefits for “big businesses” such as a major league team.

The Sun-Times article quotes anonymous officials from other teams which characterize the Cubs’ move in this regard as “cheap” and short-sighted.

Take this for what it’s worth, but the Cubs were deemed baseball’s most profitable team in 2013 and its owners are well-known partisan Republicans with a decidedly anti-Obama tilt. If there’s a team which is going to go out of its way to avoid having to pay Obamacare benefits, it’s not shocking that the Cubs are that team. Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing likely depends on your political persuasion, of course.

Whether other teams have done this is unknown. Whether even twice as many grounds crew members could’ve fixed the problem in time on Tuesday is also unknown, as once a tarp is laden with water, it’s impossible for almost any number of people to move it. The head count — as opposed to the manner in which the tarp was rolled and unrolled — may have been irrelevant.

Of course, I am curious what those readers who have been on my case for pointing out that mistakes were made on Tuesday — readers who accused me of picking on poor blue collar workers in all of this — feel about a team cutting hours in order to not have to pay worker benefits.

Report: Indians, Padres still talking about starting pitching trade

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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Indians and Padres are still discussing a potential trade for a starting pitcher, namely Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer. Rosenthal adds that a deal isn’t close and is unlikely to occur before Opening Day. The Padres are balking at the Indians’ asking prices for the two starters.

The Padres could certainly use an ace at the top of the rotation. With the addition of Manny Machado, the lineup is looking decent, but beyond Joey Lucchesi, the starting pitching doesn’t inspire confidence.

Kluber, who turns 33 years old next month, has club options for the next two seasons at $13.5 million and $14 million with $1 million buyouts each. Last year, the right-hander finished third in AL Cy Young balloting, finishing 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA and a 222/34 K/BB ratio in 215 innings.

Bauer, 28, is earning $13 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration heading into 2020. Last year, Bauer went 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA and a 221/57 K/BB ratio across 175 1/3 innings.

The Indians are the prohibitive favorites in the AL Central once again, but that has as much to do with the mediocrity of the rest of the division as the Indians’ commitment to competing. If the Indians were to trade either or both starters, that would be good news for the Twins, who are projected to be 15 games worse than the Indians but still finish in second place, according to PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus.